Over the summer I was admonished by an “expert” in the field.
I’m used to it by now. I’ve been helping nonprofits (instead of private sector businesses) for about 9 years. When I first started helping nonprofits the “experts” and amateurs both seemed to relish in telling me I was wrong and misinformed about almost everything. But, over the years, I’ve been proven right over and over again.
So, nowadays when people chastise me, I let them throw their punches. Then I take my time to think about why they might be right or wrong. I study. I ask the opinions of others. And, finally, I come to a conclusion.
What were we discussing that led to the rebuke?
Donor surveys of course! One of my favorite topics. After all, my company built the only donor survey platform exclusively designed for nonprofits and institutions. We’ve sent out hundreds of millions of surveys by now and generated hundreds of thousands of highly-qualified leads for major gift officers and legacy gift officers to help make them more efficient and effective while sparing donors from spam, junk mail, and interruptive cold-calls.
I was told that we should always include an “ask” (for money) along with the “ask” for feedback and engagement.
My admonisher said that asking for both money and feedback doesn’t reduce response rates and it helps to pay for the outreach. But, after a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that he was missing the point.
The single best reason a nonprofit should conduct a donor survey in the first place is to qualify previously identified prospects for major gifts (including legacy gifts). Period!
Of course, other departments might want to conduct surveys for other reasons. But, since at least 80% of your revenue most-likely comes from major gifts and legacy gifts, you’d be wise to make sure everyone knows that yours is the most essential one for generating revenue over the long haul.
So, that brings me back to the “ask” in the survey. If this survey is the most essential, why wouldn’t you want to ask for money right away when you conduct the effort?
Here are 4 reasons why:
1- One offer almost always works better than multiple offers. In direct response marketing (as the name implies) you’re aiming to get a response. And, all of us in the direct response field know that one, single offer helps prospects avoid confusion. There are few rare exceptions including multi-product offers (like product catalogs), piggyback or deluxe offers (“buy one knife and get a cheese shredder for 75% off” or “buy the paperback now for $9.95 or add just $2.00 to get the hard-cover edition), and good-better-best offers (used most in travel when selecting seats like coach, business class or first-class).
Now, I realize my admonisher said he has tested offering a chance for supporters to provide feedback alone versus the opportunity to provide feedback and make a donation and he found no reduction in response but I had not been provided the data and I don’t believe his research was peer-reviewed. So, until that time, I just can’t take his word for it.
Plus, as Dr. Russell James recently said in our webinar on donor surveys, “they’re already giving you a gift by spending their time.”
2- Donors trust is essential. Trust is the cornerstone of major gift and legacy gift relationships. Yet, in the early stages of the major giving consideration continuum, most prospects might not trust you completely. By asking for money at the end of a survey, your prospects might feel duped. They’ll be likely to think to themselves, “Oh, so that’s why you asked all those questions. It’s not because you care, it’s not because you really wanted my opinion… it’s just because you want my money.”
Dr. James added in our webinar, “You don’t ever want to do something that makes people think you don’t care what they think.” He continued by saying the following about asking for money in supporter surveys: “Do that some other time and some other place.”
3- People give even if you don’t ask. Since we conduct so many surveys at MarketSmart we see that a huge number of the efforts cost our clients nothing because the donors give without any ask. Therefore, we achieve the objective of raising some money to pay for the effort but we do so without compromising the prospects’ trust.
4- You’ll be missing the point and being short-sighted. Remember the main reason for conducting a supporter survey is to qualify prospects for major gift and legacy gift portfolios so they can be cultivated. The data you’ll acquire from a survey is like none other. You’ll find out why they care, what they care about, who inspired them to care, whether or not they have children, whether or not they have a donor-advised fund or family foundation, and so on. The value of that data is immeasurable. It will help you zero-in on the most qualified supporters with the most capacity and highest amount of passion for your cause.
Don’t be shortsighted. Don’t try to grab a few extra dollars when the long-term potential so great. Don’t ask for money when you survey your supporters.
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